January 4, 2021

Case Report from the Field

The following tactical team deployment took place in the Midwest, involving a 30-person multijurisdictional SWAT team. The TEMS element was activated, and Dr. John Wipfler was deployed for over 7 hours alongside. This is a brief summary of the callout, and description of what transpired.

In September 2020, a 30 y/o male in a small town became increasingly depressed after breaking up with his girlfriend, and developed an increased alcohol dependence. After a sheriff’s deputy brought an order of protection initiated by his ex-girlfriend to his house, he became angry and shut the door. As the deputy was leaving, the individual rapid-fired multiple gunshots inside the house. There were no immediate injuries or rounds that appeared to be deliberately fired at the deputy.  The deputy ran for cover and notified command.  Additional officers soon arrived, a perimeter was established, and neighbors were evacuated or notified to remain in their basement.  Communications with the local SWAT commander and review of the threat matrix resulted in a full tactical and TEMS callout, including two Bearcat armored vehicles.

When the tactical team arrived, a briefing was conducted at a fire station located 6 blocks away. Designated marksmen (snipers) were deployed. The time was early evening and it soon became pitch dark. SWAT deployed behind cover in several perimeter locations, and the first Bearcat on-scene was deployed to the front of the house, approximately 30 feet away (see photos). A TEMS element (JW) was deployed inside this Bearcat, and remained until the crisis was resolved.  Inside the Bearcat was an assistant team leader and 5 other tactical officers.  After several hours, a second Bearcat arrived and was also utilized on the perimeter.

Over the next 6 hours, communication with the suspect was established by the team and negotiators, using audio speakers from the Bearcat, phone calls (when the suspect answered) and Facebook Messenger.  The suspect’s parents were able to provide assistance at the incident command post. The SWAT team leader provided supervisory command from tactical operations center located several blocks away.

Throughout the encounter, attempts were made to negotiate the suspect into surrendering. He had 4 firearms in the house, and would express his frustration and anger by firing an occasional single shot, and sometimes 3-4 shots in rapid succession.  During the episode, no rounds struck any of the vehicles nor any known external structure. The suspect fired his pistol, rifle, and shotgun over 42 times over the course of the stand-off.  Fortunately, no one was injured, and he never directly fired at any person.

The suspect would occasionally peer out of the windows, once observed by the tactical physician in the Bearcat to be pointing with an object. Using a telescopic sight, it was confirmed that he was aiming a scoped AR-15 rifle directly at the Bearcat, from a distance of 30 feet, although no shots were fired. He did shoot the rifle a minute later out the window of the front door, but it was pointed upwards.

As negotiations were failing to bring the incident to a safe resolution, CS and OC rounds were fired into the house. The ram mounted on the front of the Bearcat was used to breach the front door and also a nearby window. Following this, a small tracked robot with audio and video capabilities was deployed on the front porch, successfully entered the front doorway, and located the suspect.  He was pointing a handgun directly at the robot when the operator and tactical physician first saw him.  Using the robot’s audio, communications commenced and the suspect was convinced to surrender.  He walked out the front door, and direct commands were given by a nearby tactical officer who was with 6 providing both lethal and less-lethal cover. The suspect slowly exited the building with his hands on his head; after pulling up his shirt and turning around (demonstrating no weapons in his beltline), successfully taken into custody, handcuffed and searched.  He was examined by the tactical physician, and was noted to have only minor, painless cuts to his face with no eye injuries evident. The injuries occurred when he fired his AR-15 rifle next to a window, blowing fragments of glass into his face. He was felt to be medical stable and was transferred to a nearby hospital emergency department for a comprehensive exam (to include the eyes), wound care, and psychiatric evaluation. Mission successful!

This photo below is a view of front of barricaded gunman’s house, with spotlights from Bearcat armored vehicle lighting the windows (and door, located to left of these).

Pic#2-Front gunmans house.jpg

A suspect can be seen pointing a scoped rifle (AR-15) out the window pointed directly at the Bearcat. Note that the front windshield can stop a bullet from this type of rifle.  No gunshots were fired at this time, but one minute later he did fire out the front door window upwards, without striking any vehicle or officer.

Pic#3-Suspect pointing scope rifle.jpg

The front right side of the house, seen from inside the vehicle.

Pic#4-Scene from dark inside vehicle.jpg

The view of the back of the Bearcat, as the 2nd Bearcat approaches, and the tracked robot was placed on a pole for delivery to the front porch. All officers are located behind hard cover.

Pic#5-View from back of bearcat.jpg

The tracked robot being carried by an extended pole mounted on the front of the Bearcat. After placement on the porch, it was used to successfully locate the suspect (near kitchen, to the right) and subsequent communications convinced the suspect to peacefully surrender.  He did point a pistol at the robot briefly.

Pic#6-Tracked robot arm.jpg

The suspect’s right elbow and part of his body can be seen in the right side of the picture.  He obeyed direct orders given by a single tactical officer, who provided clear and precise commands. He slowly walked out with his hands on his head.

Pic#7-Suspect on porch.jpg

The suspect has pulled up his shirt, and slowly turned entirely around in a circle, in order to visualize any weapon at the beltline.  There were none. An arrest team approached, and successfully secured and searched the suspect, and he was taken into custody. A medical pre-incarceration screening exam was performed, and he was transported to an ED for full evaluation. Mission length:  7 hours.

Pic#8-Suspect with shirt up.jpg

All photos in this case report were taken by the tactical physician and Dr. John Wipfler was deployed and provided personal knowledge of event.

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